Our Thoughts

Serving Our Communities: Part 2

In Part I of this series, I described the Generations program, which I completed in 2018. We have now laid the groundwork for non-profit service and explained the challenges organizations face in identifying and retaining volunteer leaders who are equipped to administer entity governance. Through the eight-course Generations program, participants learn how to manage a nonprofit organization effectively.

Organizations in the non-profit sector play an essential role in our communities, meeting the varied needs of individuals and families and generally making life better for those who live here. Simply put, they invest in our community and can do so through the generous financial contributions and personal support of the public.

To maintain and build upon public support, they must hold themselves accountable to high levels of integrity and demonstrate responsible stewardship of finances and programming. The nature of volunteer leaders and regular leadership transitions can make it difficult to ensure accountability for effective leadership, protecting the organization’s future. The Nonprofit Management Center (NMC) has created Accountability Indicators for this reason. The indicators “serve as a roadmap to help nonprofits be more accountable in the areas of mission and program, governance, fundraising and development, employment practices, financial management, public accountability, volunteer management, and technology.” For more information about these indicators and the performance scorecard, visit the NMC’s website.

A good board can both oversee the daily operations of an organization and to support the organization, moving it forward. But great board leadership results in a “creative and collaborative process that supports the chief executive, engages board members, and furthers the cause(s) they all serve.” It moves beyond competent and responsible stewardship to active engagement. An organization’s board should be a strategic asset that adds lasting value. The Generations curriculum includes exploration of 12 principles that can help move boards from good to exceptional. These principles are the result of the combined wisdom of governance experts and published by the think tank, Board Source, in The Source12: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards.

Financial stewardship is another critical element of board service, and a key responsibility of each board member is to review and approve financial statements regularly. Prudently managing the finances of a nonprofit organization requires careful budgetary oversight as well as a fundamental understanding of the unique challenges an organization may face. All board members should expect to play a vital role in fundraising for the organization. Helping promote relationships within the community and opening doors for donations are both significant drivers of supporting an organization financially. A board member’s passion for and understanding of the organization’s mission make this effort authentic, and all board members should expect to contribute personally to fundraising efforts.

The Generations program is widely supported by engaged nonprofit volunteers in the Midland community. Many of the course’s content was delivered by individuals who have spent years serving various organizations in a myriad of capacities. The personal stories and anecdotes, along with written case studies we reviewed were an effective way to bring all of the lessons to life and show the true application of leadership principles in the nonprofit world.

Once participants “graduate” from the program, the staff from the Nonprofit Management Center works to match each graduate with organizations that need qualified board members. Of course, placement is an important and personal process and begins with gaining an understanding of each’s interests and passions to find the right fit within the community. In our next Serving Our Communities piece, I will share more about my placement in the Midland community.